July, 2021

July, 2021




Last month, I reported that the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, (EEOC), provided recent guidance stating that employers could require vaccinations for those employees returning to the job as long as employers were not “coercive” and met other legal requirements, such as protections under the Americans With Disabilities Act and Title VII.

The first court decision on this subject was issued on June 12, 2021 by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.  Bridges et al. v. Houston Methodist Hospital, et al., No. H-21-1774, U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Texas, June 12, 2021 (Hughes, J.).

Jennifer Bridges and 116 other employees sued to block the hospital’s April 1, 2021 policy requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by June 7, 2021 or be terminated.

The plaintiffs first claimed that the vaccinations are experimental and dangerous.  The court stated that the claim is false and irrelevant since vaccine safety and efficacy are not considered in adjudicating the case.

The next claim, that the injection requirement violates public policy, was also rejected since Texas does not recognize such exception to at-will employment.  In support, the court cited Supreme Court precedent that has held that (a) involuntary quarantine for contagious diseases and (b) state-imposed requirements for mandatory vaccination do not violate due process:  Jacobson v. Massachusestts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905)(the state’s compulsory vaccination law did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment); Compagnie Francoise De Navigation a Vapeur v. Bd. Of Health of State of La., 186 U.S. 380 (1902)(Louisiana law requiring involuntary quarantine during a yellow fever outbreak was a reasonable exercise of state police power).

While the court rejected her claims as a matter of law, it went on to clarify that Bridges has not been “coerced.”  “Bridges says she is being forced to be injected with a vaccine or be fired.  This is not coercion.  Methodist [Houston Methodist Hospital] is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus.  It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer.  Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else.  If a worker refuses an assignment, changed office, earlier start time or other directive, he may be properly fired.  Every employment includes limits on the worker’s behavior in exchange for his renumeration.  That is all part of the bargain.”

The court dismissed the lawsuit.



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